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04 December 2014

Holiday air travel advice 2014

Between now and the beginning of next year, untold millions of passengers, some of them flying for the first time in a while, and even many first time flyers, will be taking to the skies for the holidays, and wants to do its part to help you avoid any serious travel issues. has a variety of resources, including online resources and downloadable ebooks that will help you work through many of the most common issues: web site resources

Downloadable ebooks

Traveling with gifts
If you carry gifts, either in checked or carry-on baggage, remember that the TSA has to be able to inspect any package and may have to unwrap your gift to do so. You can partially unwrap them for easier access, ship wrapped gifts ahead of time, or wait until you arrive at your destination to wrap them.

Flying with holiday food
You should be aware that some food items are banned from carry on baggage because they contain liquids or gels. While you can carry cakes, pastries, and pies with you in your carry on bag, but the following should either be in checked baggage or left at home:

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
  • Gravy
  • Jams, jellies, and syrup
  • Oils and vinegars
  • Salad dressing
  • Salsa
  • Sauces
  • Soups
  • Wine, liquor and beer
  • Gift baskets with one or more of the above items

Take our food survey
Help up understand what kind of food issues you may be having during your holiday travel by taking this short survey, which should last no more than three minutes. It will help develop better advice around holiday travel and food.

Things you should know
There are several new trends and rules to look out for this year, some of them are pleasant surprises, and some of them no so pleasant:

  • Who can leave their shoes on: In the US, TSA allows children 12 and under, adults age 75 and older, and uniformed members of the armed forces who have a valid military ID can leave their shoes or footwear on.
  • Military members and TSA screening: Members of the military, including service academy cadets, are eligible for expedited screening at over 100 US airports if they use their military ID number when making a reservation. Visit TSA for more information on this program.
  • Marijuana and air travel: Starting in 2014, two US states, Colorado and Washington, allowed adults to legally purchase and consume recreational marijuana. However, marijuana is not allowed on airliners in the US, or at most US airports, and flying with it can get you arrested. For more information, visit's section on air travel and marijuana at

06 November 2014

Rethinking space related risk in the wake of SpaceShipTwo

'This Week in Airline Safety' for 7 November 2014 discusses how the SpaceShipTwo mishap led to a rethinking of how will look at space related safety and risk.

Last month's mishap that led to a loss of SpaceShipTwo, the vehicle designed and built by Scaled Composites that Virgin Galactic plans to use to provide anyone with the right combination of desire, adventure, and money a chance to go into space on a suborbital flight. While some in the media, most notably Wired Magazine have questioned the value of what Virgin Galactic is trying to do (referring to SpaceShipTwo as the "world's most expensive roller coaster"), there can be no question that the accident, and the ongoing NTSB investigation, has led to a new examination, both within the aerospace community and by the general public, of the value of space travel.

At, that examination led to a rethinking of how to look at the history of space from the perspective of risk. As has been the case with airline safety and security, the goal of is to provide useful information about risk, safety, and security. To that end, there were several changes made to the site, to put the risk of current and future human spaceflight activities into a broader, and perhaps more appropriate, context. The key changes to the site include the following:

Expanding the range of noteworthy events
A revamped and expanded page on space related mishaps will now include mishaps involving any vehicle capable of traveling above the internationally recognized boundary of space (the Karman Line, which is at 100 km above the Earth), where at least one occupant was serious injured or killed, or where the vehicle was lost or destroyed. In the mishaps listed on this page, the vehicle was engaged in a flight, a ground test, or a training session.

Including additional space programs
The pages listing space related mishaps and deaths associated with US space programs now has additional government sponsored or privately sponsored space programs, including the Manned Orbiting Laboratory and X-15 programs that were run by the US government and which both ended in the 1960s, and the current civilian program run by Virgin Galactic.

Expanding the definition of US space program
This page will include deaths of any astronaut or astronaut candidate in any space program sponsored by the US government, or of any person killed while associated with a private or corporate space travel project. The first category would include professional astronauts who were full time astronauts or astronaut trainees and who were killed accidentally whether on duty or off duty.

The second category would include anyone who was killed in a flight, ground test, or training session involving a vehicle capable of traveling into space. This latter category would include people such as NASA payload specialist Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the inflight breakup of Space Shuttle Columbia, and Michael Alsbury, who was killed in the SpaceShipTwo mishap.

This expanded definition of US space program deaths was not possible to do for all the world's space programs, because of the lack of independently verifiable information on space related training deaths in programs previously run by the government of the former Soviet Union, and programs currently being run by the government of the People's Republic of China.

Interesting observations from the updated pages
The newly updated and expanded pages on space related events led to some new observations about the safety history of the world's space programs:

  • There have been 14 events involving fatalities in US space programs, killing a total of 29 people, with 16 of the deaths occurring in a vehicle capable of traveling into space.

  • Two people have survived a mishap that resulted in the loss of a space vehicle. The first was Virgil (Gus) Grissom in the 1961 flight of Mercury 4, and the second was Peter Siebold in last month's mishap involving SpaceShipTwo.

  • Siebold is also the first person to survive a fatal mishap involving a space vehicle.

  • Grissom is the only person to have been involved in more than one mishap. He survived Mercury 4, but died in a fire aboard Apollo 1.

  • While there have been 10 serious mishaps involving a space vehicle, only seven involved a vehicle that had traveled, or was intending to travel, into space, and only one event (the 1971 flight of Soyuz 11) involved fatalities that occurred in space.

  • Based on the internationally recognized boundary of space, the first person to fly into space twice was X-15 pilot Joe Walker, who twice flew above 100 km in 1963.

Additional resources
SpaceShipTwo accident investigation
Space flight related mishaps
Deaths associated with US space programs

04 November 2014

NTSB provides timeline of SpaceShipTwo mishap

The following is an overview of the preliminary findings presented by the NTSB on the third day of their investigation.

During the fourth media briefing on the third day of the on site portion of the NTSB investigation of the crash of SpaceShipTwo, the most significant information provided by acting NTSB chair Christopher A. Hart was a general timeline of the events between the release of SpaceShipTwo from its mothership WhiteKnightTwo, and the loss of telemetry from SpaceShipTwo. In that roughly fifteen second span, a number of events occurred inside SpaceShipTwo:

  • SpaceShipTwo released from mothership WhiteKnightTwo at 10:07:19 PDT (17:07:19 UTC)
  • The rocket engine was ignited about two seconds later.
  • About eight seconds later, and 10 seconds after release, SpaceShipTwo was traveling at about Mach 0.94
  • Sometime during the next two seconds, the feather lock handle was moved from the locked to the unlock position by the person sitting in the right seat.
  • At about 12 seconds after release, the vehicle was traveling at Mach 1.02
  • The feathers began to deploy at about 13 seconds after release.
  • Telemetry and video data was lost about two seconds later, roughly 15 seconds after release.

In addition to the timeline, the NTSB stated that lightweight debris was recovered about 30-35 miles northeast of the main wreckage area, and it was not clear what role wind may have played in the distribution of that wreckage. Also, while there was clear evidence that the pilot in the right seat moved the feather lock handle, during the media briefing, Hart was not clear if it was the pilot or the copilot who did so.

Shortly after the media briefing, NTSB clarified its position on Twitter, stating that the copilot, who did not survive the mishap, was the person in the right seat who moved the lock/unlock handle into the unlocked position.

Additional resources
Initial NTSB SpaceShipTwo accident investigation
Review of first two NTSB briefings on 1 November 2014
Review of third NTSB briefing on 2 November 2014
Review of fourth NTSB briefing on 3 November 2014

03 November 2014

NTSB hints that SpaceShipTwo breakup was not related to an engine failure

The following is an overview of the factual data presented by the NTSB on the second day of their investigation.

During the media briefing on the second day of the NTSB investigation of the crash of SpaceShipTwo, acting NTSB chair Christopher A. Hart, reported on some of their early findings that implied that there was no fire, explosion, or other kind of breach or failure involving the engine, fuel tank, or oxidizer tank. Early evidence instead points to an un uncommanded deployment of the feathering system just prior to the loss of telemetry from SpaceShipTwo.

The feathering system on SpaceShipTwo allows the twin booms on the vehicle, referred to as the feathers, to rotate upward in order to provide more aerodynamic drag on reentry. They are intended to be deployed after the engine has shut down and prior to reentry. According the information provided at the briefing, deploying the feathers takes two actions from the flight crew. The feathering system has to first be unlocked before they can be deployed by moving the feather handle into the feathered position.

There is a feathering handle that moves the feathers into the feathered position. Based on video evidence from inside SpaceShipTwo, the copilot unlocked the system, but the system deployed without any crew input.

Model of SpaceShipTwo in unfeathered position

Model of SpaceShipTwo in feathered position

The sequence of events was roughly as follows:

  • After being released from its carrier aircraft, the crew of SpaceShipTwo ignited the rocket engine.
  • About nine seconds after engine ignition, telemetry data showed that the feather parameters changed from locked to unlocked.
  • Video from the cockpit showed that the copilot had unlocked the feathering system, and is consistent with the telemetry data.
  • About two seconds later, the feathers moved toward the deployed position even though the feather handle had not been moved into the feather position.
  • The feather deployment occurred at a speed just above Mach 1.
  • Shortly after feathering occurred, video data and telemetry data terminated.
  • The engine burn was normal prior to the deployment of the feathers.
  • Normal procedures would have had the crew unlocking the feathering system at a speed of about Mach 1.4.
  • Unlocking the feathering system alone should not have allowed the feathers to deploy.
  • The inflight breakup of the vehicle began sometime after telemetry ceased.
  • The NTSB has not determined if the inflight breakup was caused by aerodynamic forces or from some other cause.
  • The rocket engine, fuel tank, or oxidizer tank showed no evidence of a breach or burn through consistent with some sort of fire, explosion or structural failure affecting those components.

The NTSB emphasized that their statements were statements of fact rather than a determination of a cause of the mishap. Below is a video of the third media briefing.

Additional resources
Initial NTSB SpaceShipTwo accident investigation
Review of first two NTSB briefings on 1 November 2014
Review of third NTSB briefing on 2 November 2014

Note: An earlier version of this story inadvertently stated that there was evidence of a breach or burn on some components.

01 November 2014

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo NTSB accident investigation

The NTSB is leading the investigation into yesterday's crash of Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo north of Mojave, CA. Saturday November 1st was the first day of the investigation, and the NTSB has already had one one media briefing with a second planned for late in the evening.

The following is an overview of the crash and comments on the early media briefings.

31 October 2014; Scaled Composites; Model 339 (SpaceShipTwo); N339SS; near Cantil, CA: The vehicle, which is designed to fly into the lower reaches of space (above 100 km above Earth) was on its first powered test flight with a new engine fuel and oxidizer combination (nylon and nitrous oxide). SpaceShipTwo was dropped from its carrier vehicle at about 45,000 feet, and ignited its engine.

Roughly two minutes after release from the carrier aircraft White Knight Two, the SpaceShipTwo vehicle experienced an inflight breakup. One of the two crew members was killed, and the other was able to bail out of the vehicle and was injured.

Prior to the accident flight, there had been the 54 test flights of SpaceShipTwo, of which 34 involved a release from the carrier aircraft, including three powered flights.

Scaled Composites, which conducted the flight test, is a partner of Virgin Galactic, which had planned on using SpaceShipTwo to take passengers on suborbital trips into space in the near future.

Summary of first two NTSB briefings on 1 November 2014
Both NTSB briefing were given by acting NTSB chair Christopher A. Hart, was short, and provided the following preliminary information about the accident:

  • While the NTSB has previously participated in the investigations of the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle accidents, this will be the first time it has taken the lead role in the investigation of a crewed space launch vehicle accident.
  • The NTSB team consists of about 13-15 investigators and specialists in the areas of structures, including systems, engines, vehicle, performance, and operations.
  • The parties to the investigation are the FAA, Scaled Composites, and Virgin Galactic
  • The vehicle was flying in a southwesterly direction, and the wreckage field is about five miles (8 km) long, and is oriented from the northeast to the southwest.
  • The wreckage pattern indicates that an inflight breakup occurred, but the NTSB has not yet determined why this happened.
  • The left and right tail booms were near the beginning of the wreckage trail, followed by the fuselage, fuel and oxidizer tanks, cockpit, and the rocket engine.
  • There were a total of three tanks in the vehicle, a fuel tank, an oxidizer tank, and a methane tank.
  • The NTSB was unaware of the altitude of the mishap.
  • There was extensive video data available from the flight, including six cameras on SpaceShipTwo, another three on White Knight Two, one in a chase aircraft, and one on the Edwards AFB test range.
  • The NTSB does not know if the six cameras on board SpaceShipTwo have been recovered.
  • There were six data sources on SpaceShipTwo and about 1000 parameters of telemetry available from the flight. There was also a radar on the chase aircraft.
  • Interviews have been conducted, but NTSB will not reveal what has been discovered until later in the investigation.
  • The surviving pilot has not yet been interviewed because his doctors recommended against doing so at this time.
  • The NTSB does not know how the surviving pilot exited the vehicle.
  • The on scene portion of the investigation will continue for another four to seven days, and the full investigation will take about a year.
  • Scaled Composites can continue operations during the investigation.
  • News and updates to the investigation will be available at the NTSB's web site ( Twitter feed (@NTSB).

Initial SpaceShipTwo NTSB briefings

Initial NTSB SpaceShipTwo briefings 1 November 2014

28 October 2014

Why Ebola air travel restrictions keep changing

In recent days, Ebola-related restrictions on travel keep changing, sometimes in ways that can be confusing to airline passengers and to the general public. There are two basic reasons why this is happening, the first being the changing nature of the Ebola outbreak, and the second because there are several kinds of independent decision makers when it comes to Ebola travel policies.

The changing face of Ebola
As of late October 2014, Ebola remains a serious epidemic, and according to the CDC, over 10,000 people have been infected with roughly 5,000 dead. The largest number of cases are in three west African countries, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. There have been at least five other countries with one or more Ebola cases, and for two these countries, the US and Nigeria, the virus was carried there by an airline passenger.

US response
The response of US authorities has been varied, with the key responses including the following:

  • Federal requirements that air travelers who fly directly from Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone enter the US in to one of five airports, each of which has a screening program to evaluate travelers from those countries.
  • Additional requirements from several states (including states containing at least four of the five entry airports) that include some form of quarantine for some or all travelers who have been exposed to Ebola.
  • US military authorities have either quarantine or evaluation programs for military personnel who have provided support in efforts to address Ebola in west Africa.

Why is the US concerned?
Although there have only been a handful of Ebola cases in the US, there has been a very high level of interest and concern by the public and the US government in keeping Ebola from becoming a serious problem. This concern is likely based on the reality that there is a significant number of people who travel between the US and those countries most affected by Ebola, including thousands of medical professionals and military members who are directly involved with fighting the epidemic in west Afria; and citizens, residents, and visitors from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

Who makes Ebola decisions in the US
In the US, various units of government are able to make decisions independently of one another, and that can lead to multiple, overlapping, and sometimes contradictory policies. In the case of Ebola, a few of the independent decision makers include the following:

  • The federal government can enforce policies involving things like air transportation, travel between US states, and border security.
  • Individual states, including cities, counties, and smaller government units within the states, can enforce restrictions or quarantines on air travelers that go beyond federal requirements.
  • Military organizations, in addition to having access to its own air transportation system, can impose restrictions on members of the armed forces that may go far beyond those imposed by either the states or by federal governments.

In addition to units of government, individual travelers can make decisions that can easily circumvent the restrictions of the federal or state governments, largely because federal and state governments often have to rely on information provided by air travelers and have no way to independently verify a traveler's claims about their travel history.

So far, no individual air traveler has has caused someone in the US to contract Ebola due to deliberately avoiding the current screening and restriction programs or because of a failure of one of those programs. Should that happen, or should there be a sharp increase in the number of Ebola cases in the US, it is very likely that one or more government organizations may change air transportation rules in significant and unpredictable ways.

Background information on air travel bans
Air travel bans to control epidemics
Background information on Ebola
Background information on SARS

21 October 2014

Why an air travel ban for Ebola may not help

In the days after the first Ebola fatality in the US in early October 2014, from a person who contracted the disease in Liberia and later flew to Dallas, TX, there have been concerns in some circles, most notably in the political arena and throughout social media, that there should be some kind of travel ban put into effect to keep other infected persons from traveling to the US. These concerns were due in part to the fact that two of the medical personnel who were involved with the treatment of the Ebola patient in Dallas also contracted Ebola.

US government passenger screening
In mid-October 2014, the US government implemented a screening process to check travelers flying to the US from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea for either Ebola-like symptoms, or exposure to the Ebola virus. This was done to manage the risk the US population faced from travelers who may be infected with the Ebola virus and who knowingly or unknowingly fly to the US.

The screening program was in effect for five US airports that accounted for about 95% of the travelers to come to the US directly from those countries. This program lessened the effect of a risk, specifically making it less likely that someone exposed to or infected by Ebola would also expose the general population to that disease.

While this screening program provided some protection from arriving passengers who may have been exposed to Ebola, it did not go as far as an outright ban of travel by people from that region, a ban which could potentially have eliminated the risk or made it much less likely to occur.

Reasons a ban may be impractical
While the idea of a ban on travel to and from the three most affected African countries, may appear to be a prudent step to take to keep the epidemic from spreading to America, there are a number of reasons that it may not be effective, and in fact may make it harder to control the Ebola epidemic in the most heavily impacted countries. A few of those reasons include the following:

  • No US airline provides direct service to Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea, and the US government has no legal authority ban flights to the affected countries by non-US airlines.

  • US citizens and permanent residents are allowed to travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea without prior approval from the US government.

  • Banning international travel to or from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea would have done nothing to address domestic flights taken by those already in the US who were recently in one of those three countries.

  • Several thousand US residents who are or may soon be traveling between those three countries and the US are medical professionals, civil servants, military personnel, and others who are or will be part of ongoing efforts to control the Ebola epidemic.

While the US at present has no outright travel bans in place, the changing nature of the Ebola epidemic may lead to some kind of travel ban in the future. For additional details on the kinds of travel bans that could be put into place, as well as why enforcing such bans may be difficult, visit's Air travel bans to control epidemics page.

Background information on air travel bans
Air travel bans to control epidemics
Background information on Ebola
Background information on SARS

18 October 2014

About 800 Frontier passengers may have been exposed to Ebola virus

CDC Expands Passenger Notification
A nurse who had treated the first US Ebola patient was exposed to the Ebola virus and later contracted the disease. Before she was hospitalized, she had taken the following two airline flights in early October 2014 on Frontier Airlines:

  • October 10th: Fight 1142 from Dallas, TX (DFW) to Cleveland, OH.
  • October 13th: Flight 1143 from Cleveland to DFW.

Several days ago, it was revealed that this passenger had a fever while on the return flight, and may have put others on the aircraft at risk. The CDC and the airline started working together to contact passengers who were on flight 1143 from October 13th in order to interview them and to provide any necessary advice or information.

On Thursday October 16th, the CDC also revealed that they were looking for passengers who were on the earlier flight on October 10th. This is because the infected nurse, who was hospitalized one day after the October 13th flight, may have been exhibiting Ebola symptoms during the earlier October 10th flight.

What should those passengers do?
If you were on either of these Frontier Airlines flights, the CDC suggests that you contact them at the following numbers:

  • 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)
  • 800-232-6348 (TTY)
  • 1-404-404-639-3311 (main switchboard)

Were the airplanes contaminated?
It is unclear if the airplanes used on those flights were contaminated with the Ebola virus. According to an October 15th article from the Denver Post, the plane used for flight 1143 was cleaned using procedures that were consistent with CDC guidelines after the October 13th flight, and and again after flying on five additional flights on October 14th.

After Frontier was notified about the infected passenger on October 15th, the aircraft was removed from service. The aircraft has since been cleaned two more times, had its environmental filters changed, and had seat covers and carpets in the vicinity of the infected passenger replaced. The two flight crew and four cabin crew members were placed on paid leave for 21 days. The article did not mention the taken for the aircraft and crew used for flight 1142 on October 10th.

Passengers on other flights may be at risk
While the CDC is only actively seeking out passengers on flights 1142 and 1143, according to another Denver Post from October 16th, Frontier Airlines attempting to contact the roughly 800 passengers who were on the following five flights from October 14th and suggesting that they contact the CDC:

  • Flight 2042, DFW-CLE, departed 7:50 am CDT
  • Flight 1104, CLE-FLL departed 12:13 pm EDT
  • Flight 1105 FLL-CLE departed 3:43 pm EDT
  • Flight 1101 CLE-ATL departed 7:14 pm EDT
  • Flight 1100 ATL-CLE departed 9:57 pm EDT

Related resources
October 15th Denver Post article
October 16th Denver Post article
Ebola and airline travel issues

17 October 2014

Evolving issues with Ebola and air travel

The recent news that a nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, who was both infected by the Ebola virus and showing Ebola-related symptoms, was on an airline flight with 132 other passengers (and at least five crew members) was disturbing for a couple of reasons. The primary concern was that this nurse, who had a low-grade fever but no other Ebola-related symptoms, put all the passengers and crew on that plane at risk of being infected by the Ebola virus.

The secondary concern is that passengers on other flights may have also been exposed to the Ebola virus. The October 13th Frontier Airlines flight, which was flight number 1143, departed from Cleveland and flew to the Dallas DFW airport. This airport is a major hub airport for American as well a popular airport for international flights. It is likely that many of the passengers on that Frontier flight were changing planes in Dallas, may have exposed thousands of other passengers to the Ebola virus.

Nurse Vinson was not reckless or unaware of the risk of her flying. She had been directly involved with treating an Ebola patient in Dallas, and had been monitoring her health status for signs of an Ebola infection. She realized that she had a fever, which is a symptom of Ebola infection, and had contacted the Centers for Disease Control for advice on wether she should fly.

At the time, her fever was low enough to allow her to fly, and the CDC gave her permission to take that flight. Since then, the CDC has admitted that their decision was not the right one, and have changed their policy on travel by health workers who have been exposed to the Ebola virus.

Recent interviews
Below are several recent Ebola-related interviews and articles by Todd Curtis of

Additional resources
Background information on Ebola
Passenger with Ebola flies to Dallas
Patrick Smith of on air travel and Ebola

10 October 2014

Update on the location of flight MH370

On 8 October 2014, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released an update detailing their best estimate of the current location of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The location of this 777, which went missing on 8 March 2014 with 227 passengers and 12 crew members who were on board, is unknown, and in the seven months since the aircraft went missing, no trace of the aircraft, its passengers, or its cargo have been found.

In spite of this lack of direct, physical evidence, information from other sources, including radar data and signals sent from the aircraft to an INMARSAT satellite, were used to estimate both the duration of flight for the aircraft, and its approximate position when the aircraft presumably ran out of fuel over the southern Indian Ocean.

After an initial underwater search was ended last May, the ATSB, along with support from other nations, has spent considerable time producing more detailed maps of the seafloor in the vicinity of the proposed search areas, and refining the estimate of the likely location of the aircraft. The recent ATSB analysis, which included simulations of various end of flight scenarios, came to the following conclusions

  • The last satellite communication occurred very near the estimated time of fuel exhaustion.
  • The ATSB, Boeing, and Malaysia Airlines have been working on various end of flight scenarios.
  • In a scenario involving fuel exhaustion with no control inputs, the aircraft entered a descending, spiraling low bank angle left turn and entered the water in a relatively short distance after the last engine flameout.
  • The results of the new analyses support the search area defined in an earlier ATSB report from June 2014.

While the government of Malaysia has the overall responsibility for the search for the aircraft, the government of Australia, at the request of the Malaysian government, is leading the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

Related resources
ATSB flight path update from 8 October 2014
ATSB definition of underwater search area flight MH370 page

Photo: ATSB

09 October 2014

New Ebola screening measures likely not effective

On October 8th, 2014 the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), along with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), announced a series of new screening measures at selected US airports. These measures, which will focus on travelers arriving from the west African nations of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, the three nations most affected by the latest Ebola outbreak.

These new screening measures will be at five airports: New York's JFK and Newark airports, Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare, and Atlanta. The first airport to begin screening will be JFK on October 11th, and the enhanced entry screening at the other four airports by the end of the following week.

Why these five airports? While the CDC admits that no procedure will completely eliminate the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the US, These new screening measures will be at five airports: New York's JFK and Newark airports, Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare, and Atlanta. According to the CDC, these five airports represent the US entry point for the first airport to begin screening will be JFK on October 11th, and the enhanced entry screening at the other four airports by the end of the following week.

Why these five airports? According to the CDC, these five airports receive over 94 percent of travelers from the Ebola-affected nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. From August 2013 to July 2014, with JFK alone accounting for almost half the arrivals

What are the new procedures? Travelers from these three countries, who would have already gone through exit screening protocols in the affected West African countries, will face the following process:

  • Travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be escorted by CBP to an area of the airport set aside for screening.
  • They will be observed them for signs of illness and asked a series of health and Ebola exposure questions.
  • They will also have their temperature taken by a non-contact thermometer.
  • If the travelers have fever, symptoms or if the health questionnaire reveals possible Ebola exposure, they will be evaluated by a CDC quarantine station public health officer, and if necessary referred to the appropriate public health authority.
  • Travelers from these countries who are not Ebola-like symptoms exhibiting symptoms and who have no known history of exposure will receive health information for self-monitoring and will be allowed to enter the country.

How effective has exit screening been?
According to the CDC, since exit screening began about two months ago in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, 36,000 people were screened and 77 people were kept from boarding a flight.

None of these 77 passengers were diagnosed with Ebola. However, at least one passenger who was infected with Ebola, but who was apparently not exhibiting any Ebola symptoms, was able to depart Liberia on September 19th, and flew to the US through Washington Dulles airport and then onward to Dallas, TX. This passenger, Thomas Eric Duncan later fell ill and died from Ebola.

How effective will this new entry screening process be?
In order for this screening process to identify passengers who are infected with Ebola, passengers must either be being both able and willing to provide accurate information on their Ebola exposure, or the passenger has to be exhibiting a fever or other symptom associated with Ebola.

Perhaps most importantly, in order to be even screened by this procedure, a passenger must be on a flight that comes directly from one of the three affected countries, and they must enter into one of the five airports that are part of the new screening program.

This means the roughly 6% of passengers who fly directly from the affected countries into another airport are not screened at all. However, there is a potentially much larger pool of passengers who will not be screened or who will not be identified by the proposed screening process, including passengers in the following categories:

  • Not flying directly from the three targeted countries, for example having a layover of one or more days before flying onward to the US.
  • Persons exposed to Ebola, who are not showing any symptoms, and who are either not aware of their exposure or who are not truthful about their exposure.
  • Either exposed to or infected by the Ebola virus, and possibly even showing Ebola-related symptoms, but who are not flying from the three targeted countries.
  • Entering the US by sea or through a land border.

Why make the effort if it will not be 100% effective?
The goal of these new procedures is the find and treat any passenger infected with Ebola upon arrival in the US. Clearly, these new procedures were not designed to screen every passenger entering the US, or even every passenger who is from a country that has had one or more reported Ebola cases (which include Nigeria, Senegal, and Spain).

Like many risk-reduction procedures, they will reduce the likelihood of that an Ebola-infected passenger will enter the US. However, given that passengers who are not exhibiting symptoms can easily escape notice, and that many categories of people entering the US will not be screened at all, it is quite likely that these new CDC and CBP procedures will at best be only somewhat effective and preventing an infected person from entering the US.

On October 9th, Todd Curtis of and CJOB radio's Charles Adler discussed Ebola airline travel issues and risks airline passengers may face.

Additional information Ebola overview
How one Ebola-infected passenger made it to the US
CDC fact sheet on new screening procedures

02 October 2014

Airline passenger infected with Ebola arrives in US

On September 30, 2014, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the US involved an airline passenger, Thomas Eric Duncan, who had flown from Monrovia, Liberia to Dallas, Texas after stopovers in Brussels, Belgium and at Washington Dulles Airport in the US. The passenger, who departed from Liberia on September 19th and arrived in Dallas the next day, did not display any symptoms while he was traveling, and fell ill four days after he arrived.

Duncan is currently being treated in a Dallas-area hospital, but several key questions remained unanswered, such as how this passenger, who was infected while he was traveling in Liberia, was able able to travel to the US by flying on two airlines and passing through three airports without being detected.

For more information on this the information about this particular passenger, and to find out if you may have been on a flight taken by this passenger, you can visit the page on Thomas Duncan.

More about Ebola
For more about Ebola, including links to CDC information for travelers, airline crews, airport crews, and others who may be exposed to people infected with Ebola, visit

09 September 2014

Preliminary report on the crash of flight MH17 released

Preliminary crash report
On 9 September 2014, the Dutch Safety Board, which at the request of Ukraine is heading the investigation, released their preliminary report about the crash. Because of the ongoing armed conflict in the area, the investigation focused on analysis of the information in the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR), as well as information from photographs of the wreckage. Among the key findings and observations were:

  • The aircraft at the time of departure was in an airworthy condition with no known technical malfunctions.
  • There were no indications that either the CVR or FDR were altered.
  • Both the CVR and FDR stopped recording at the same time.
  • The last radio transmissions by the flight crew ended four seconds before the CVR and FDR stopped recording.
  • The aircraft was on a constant speed, heading, and altitude when the FDR stopped recording.
  • There were no indications of any technical or operation issue with the aircraft or the crew prior to the end of the CVR and FDR recordings.
  • Three other commercial airliners, two 777s and an A330, were in the same general vicinity as flight MH17 at the time of the occurrence, with the closest aircraft about 30 km (18.6 miles) away.
  • The aircraft experienced an inflight breakup, with the wreckage falling to the right of the projected flight path of the airliner.
  • The penetration of the high velocity objects likely led to a loss of structural integrity, which in turn led to the inflight breakup.
  • The cockpit was found about 2 km (1.25 miles) from the last position recorded by the FDR, and the main wreckage area about 8 km (5 miles) from the last recorded postion.
  • Damage in the cockpit area and forward fuselage was consistent with multiple high velocity projectiles penetrating the aircraft, with the source of those projectiles being above and outside of the aircraft.
  • The pattern of damage to the cockpit and forward fuselage was not consistent with the damage expected from any known failure mode of the aircraft, its engines, or systems.

What the preliminary report did not discuss
While it has been widely reported, both by the media and by a number of governments, that the aircraft was shot down by a surface to air missile, the Dutch Safety Board did not directly discuss the source of the high velocity projectiles that hit the aircraft. Also not mentioned in this preliminary report were the result of any forensic examinations of the passengers and crew members, or of any of the wreckage found on the site. Another key area not examined was how the government of Ukraine managed flight safety over a region of active military conflict.

Timeline of the final report
The Dutch Safety Board did not give a timetable for completing the final report, but given that the preliminary report stated that the wreckage should be examined further, this implies that the final report will be published only after the investigators regain access to the areas where the wreckage fell. At the time of the preliminary report was published, that area was still part of an active conflict zone.

Preliminary investigation report
Seven Todd Curtis interviews about flight MH17
Boeing 777 crashes MH370 page
Other podcasts
Flight MH17 Wikipedia page
Crash rates by airliner model podcast home page
Listen to the podcast on TunIn

NTN 24 La Tarde interview (Spanish)

15 August 2014

When political leaders deserve special care and attention

13 August 2014; AF Andrade Empreendimentos e Participações Cessna 560XLS+ Citation Excel; PR-AFA; Guarujá, Brazil: The aircraft was approaching Guarujá Airport after a charter flight from Santos Dumont Airport in Rio de Janeiro, and crashed into a residential area about 4.3 km fro the runway. Both pilot and all five passengers were killed. Among the passengers were a candidate for president of Brazil, Eduardo Campos, his wife, and one of their five children.

This particular crash is of interest to because of the status of one of the passengers. Candidates for the highest political offices in Brazil, the United States, and other democracies have to travel extensively around the country, and if they have not already been elected to those offices, they don't have access to the kinds of military or airliner aircraft used by those who are currently in those offices.

In January 2008, after the private plane carrying presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama was damaged in an incident on the ground at Chicago's Midway Airport, pointed out US policy may expose presidential and vice presidential candidates to excessive air transportation risks. While the US currently provides Secret Service protection for the presidential and vice presidential nominees of major political parties, there are no special provisions or legal requirements for air transportation.

In short, US laws and regulations provide world-class protection from assassins for candidates seeking to be elected to the offices of president and vice president, but takes no special precautions to protect candidates from the risk of air travel. In the US, these candidates spend several months flying around the country, in everything from helicopters and smaller private planes to executive jets and airliners.

This kind of intense flying may also be done by presidents and vice presidents seeking reelection, but they are typically flown on specialized aircraft that are maintained and operated at a level at or above that of a typical airline aircraft. Also, in the US the sitting president and vice president don't fly on the same aircraft. The same is not true for candidates seeking these offices.

Taking extraordinary steps to protect a world leader does not prevent them from falling victim to a plane crash. Since WWII, at least eight national leaders or heads of international organizations have been killed in plane crashes. However, not taking at least reasonable steps to protect candidates seeking high office may be financially sound in the short run, but increases the chance that an accident will have potentially devastating effects to a nation's electoral process.

The potential policy question for Brazil, the US, and other countries that choose their leaders by popular vote is whether exposure to air travel risks faced by presidential candidates should be limited by requiring that flights taken by candidates meet some minimum set of standards. A realistic limitation could take many forms, such as requiring candidates to fly with aircraft operators or airlines that meet relatively high operational standards, or perhaps requiring that candidates use government or military air transportation.

The reasons for even considering such a a policy are the potentially negative political and social impacts of having a candidate seriously injured or killed during a campaign, especially from manageable risks such as those associated with air travel.

One can only speculate the effect that the Campos campaign may have had on the election, but there is no doubt that had he been elected, he would have had a profound effect on the direction of Brazil's political, social, and economic future. Given the potential impact that potential presidential candidates may have, it seems reasonable for Brazil, the US, and other countries to consider some kind of risk reduction policy for candidate air travel that may make it less likely that an accident will lead to a catastrophic disruption in the presidential election process.

Eduardo Campos Wikipedia entry

08 August 2014

Todd Curtis of to discuss MH370 on premiere of Ghost Planes on the H2 channel founder Dr. Todd Curtis will appear in the special Ghost Planes on H2, which is part of the History Channel network. The show’s is scheduled to air again on Wednesday, September 3rd at 8 p.m. EDT (check for showtimes in your area).

The show will focus on Malaysia Airliners flight MH370, as well as a number of other aircraft have been declared missing over the last several decades, so-called ‘Ghost Planes’ that have vanished without a trace.

Todd was one of the experts interviewed by the show’s producers to discuss some of the theories that may explain the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

The aircraft, which was on a scheduled international flight from from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, went missing in March 2014, and while authorities suspect that the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean, no trace of the plane or its 227 passengers and 12 crew members have yet to be found.

This special utilizes interviews with experts and the families of passengers, and uses computer animated re-enactments and archival news footage to explore the several theories surrounding the fate of missing on flight MH370.

07 August 2014

Ebola risks and airline travel

The recent Ebola outbreak in Africa has claimed nearly 1,000 lives since March 2014 in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, represents a potential risk for air travelers because the virus that causes the disease can be spread by direct contact with an Ebola victim.

Map of 2014 Ebola outbreak (CDC)

Recently, Emirates and British Airways became the largest airlines to suspend airline service in one or more of the most affected countries. Other airlines like Delta have allowed passengers to change flights to, from, or through certain west Africa airports in the affected areas without penalty.

Several media outlets, including the Premium Times of Nigeria stated that the first Ebola death in Nigeria was from a man who flew into Nigeria on July 23rd and two died two days later from Ebola. The report also states that the victim had shown signs of illness during the flight.

What is Ebola?
Ebola, also known as Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans, with a fatality rate of greater than 50%. It is caused by a virus that is commonly spread through close contact with an infected person.

How can a person get Ebola?
A person can become infected with the Ebola virus from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood or bodily fluids of infected people, or from contact with objects or environments contaminated with such fluids.

What are the effects of Ebola?
The effects of an infection are not immediate, with symptoms showing up between two and 21 days after infection. A person who falls ill may experience a sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

Is there a vaccine or treatment for Ebola?
There are currently no approved vaccines available for Ebola. While symptoms such as dehydration can be treated, there is no proven treatment for the underlying viral infection.

What risks do airline passengers face?
Although there are no reports of airline passengers or airline staff being infected on an airliner, there is the possibility that someone can be infected with Ebola while in an airplane or while at an airport. In areas where there has been an outbreak of Ebola, airlines and governments have done the following to reduce risks to air travelers and airline professionals:

  • Provide updated information about Ebola risks (see links below)
  • Limiting flights to or from areas experiencing Ebola outbreaks
  • Screening passengers prior to boarding

What can passengers do?
The two most important things that you can do is to avoid travel to areas experiencing an Ebola outbreak, and to seek medical attention before traveling if you are experiencing Ebola-related symptoms.If you already have a trip planned into an area with an active outbreak, you can delay or cancel the trip (check with your airline on their policies for areas of high risk).

If you are on a flight where another passenger is exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms, do your best to stay away from that passenger and inform your flight attendant about the situation. If you are unable to do this, avoid direct contact with that person, or with any object or surface touched by that person.

Basic Ebola information Ebola information page
World Health Organization (WHO) Ebola fact sheet
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Ebola overview
Ebola Q&A from the CDC

Travel warnings and advisories
CDC travel health advice
US State Department travel alerts and warnings
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Canadian government travel advice by country

29 July 2014

Three airliner crashes in one week is not that rare

The recent loss of three airliners within a seven day span, starting with Malaysia Airliners flight MH17 on July 17th, has certainly drawn a large amount of attention from the world's media, the traveling public, and even from major aviation safety organizations.

In a 28 July 2014 article published by CNN, a representative of the Flight Safety Foundation, a nonprofit organization that since 1947 has provided safety guidance and resources for the aerospace industry, implied that with the exception of the 9/11 attacks, it was hard to know whether the loss of three airliners in seven days was unprecedented. A review of the records revealed that this kind of loss has had a number of precedents within the last 20 years.

In a previous article, a review of records from 1996 to 2014 revealed that there were 25 occasions where there were three or more significant aviation events where the events were separated by 10 days or fewer.

Inspired by the statement from the Flight Safety Foundation, Todd Curtis reviewed's records again, this time discover how many times the there had been three or more losses of airliners in no more than a seven day period, and where the following criteria were also met:

  • At least one passenger was killed in each aircraft,
  • The aircraft was either destroyed or seriously damaged and no longer flyable,
  • The aircraft had the capacity to carry at least 10 passengers, and
  • The airliner event could have been due to any cause, including hijacking, sabotage, or military action.

The review revealed that there were eight occasions during the 19 calendar years that has been in operation (1996-2014), where three or more airliners have been lost within a seven day period. Below are the years and the dates of occurrence:

  1. 1997 - December 13, 15, 17, and 19
  2. 2001 - September 11, 12, and 18
  3. 2003 - January 8, 9, and 9
  4. 2008 - August 20, 24, and 24
  5. 2010 - May 12, 15, 17
  6. 2010 - August 24, 24, and 25
  7. 2011 - July 8, 11, and 13
  8. 2014 - July 17, 23, and 24

Noteworthy occurrences include the following:

  • In 1997, there were four separate events within seven days, and if an event on December 9th is included, five within 10 days.

  • In 2001, there were four airliners lost on 9/11, and one each in the two subsequent events

  • In 2010, if a fourth event on May 22 is included, there were four events in 10 days.

Given that the rate at which serious airline events occur has steadily decreased over the years, if this same analysis were done in the period prior to 1996, there would likely be a higher frequency of cases where three or more airliner were lost within a seven day span.

Fatal and serious events by year
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
2001, 2002,2003, 2004, 2005
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

Related information
"Do plane crashes happen in threes" article
Todd Curtis discusses his findings on the Rudy Maxa Show (6:44)
Related article from Patrick Smith of Bonuses
All subscribers to the mailing list at will be able to download free copies of all of the recent books, including the latest, Family Air Travel Guide.

Also available is the Fear of Flying Resource Guide, with an overview of the symptoms of fear of flying, as well as recommended resources for managing or eliminating these fears.

24 July 2014

Do plane crashes happen in threes? - yes, and sometimes in fours and fives

Note:This an updated version of an article first published in February 2009

Since was launched in 1996, the site has tracked fatal events and other significant events involving airline passengers. When these events occur, especially if two occur a just a few days apart, I sometimes get the "Do bad things like plane crashes always happen in threes?" question asked by visitors to the site, by members of the media, and by others.

I used to just dismiss the question out of hand because events like plane crashes, especially those involving passenger airliners, are very rare, and the circumstances are usually very different for each crash, often involving different airlines, different aircraft types, and even different countries.

Although it's easy to reject the original question, it is quite legitimate to ask a related question about how frequently groups of rare events occur over a relatively short period of time.

One day, just for fun, I turned the "things happening in threes" question into something that could be analyzed systematically using the information within I changed the general question into the following specific question: "How frequent are sequences of three or more fatal or significant aviation safety and security events where the time between events is ten days or less?"

For example, a sequence of three events could happen on the same day, or it could be over a period as long as 20 days, with a 10-day gap between the first and second event, and another 10-day gap between the second and third event.

The most recent sequence of three events took place over the course of seven days beginning with the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17th, followed by the crash of an TransAsia ATR airliner in Taiwan on July 23th, and ending with the crash of an Air Algerie MD83 in Mali on July 24th.

For the purposes of answering this question, I limited the data to those events that are regularly tracked by These would be plane crashes or other airline events that kill at least one passenger, or other events that considers to be significant with respect to aviation safety or aviation security.

Multiple events due to the same cause (for example, the four crashes associated with 9/11) were treated as one event. Significant events that don't kill anyone sometimes attract more media attention than the average plane crash. The January 2008 ditching of a US Airways A320 in the Hudson River in New York was one example. It was very dramatic, it got a huge amount of media exposure, and no one was killed.

A review of the records from 1996, the year was launched, to July 2014 revealed some interesting facts:

  • With the exception of 2007, 2009, and 2013, every year since 1996 included at least one sequence of three fatal or significant events that were separated by no more than ten days. There was a sequence of five significant, but nonfatal, events in January 2008 (one of which involved Senator Barack Obama), and a sequence of eight events in 2010, seven of which involved fatalities.

  • There were 25 sequences of three or more events that were separated no more than ten days. One was a sequence of eight events, three were sequences of five events, five sequences had four events, and the other sixteen consisted of three events each.

  • Most of the fatal and significant events tracked from 1996 to the present were not part of any sequence of three or more events.

  • Well known fatal events that were a part of one of these sequences include the Swissair MD-11 crash in 1998, the Concorde crash in 2000, the August 2006 crash of a Comair jet, in Lexington, KY, the August 2008 crash of a Spanair MD83 in Madrid, and the July 2014 crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

  • Well known events that were not a part of one of these sequences include the ValuJet and TWA Flight 800 crashes in 1996, the Alaska Airlines crash in 2000, the four crashes associated with 9/11, and the March 2014 loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

  • For 16 of the past 19 calendar years (1996 to 2014), there has been at least one grouping of three or more fatal or significant events that occurred over a relatively short period.

  • No information has come about in the investigations of any of those events that indicates that there was any sort of connection among the crashes that were part of a sequence of three or more events, or that suggested that earlier events in a sequence made a later event more likely.

After reviewing the facts, I no longer say that plane crashes don't happen in threes. Since 1996, they have happened in sequences of three, four, five, and eight.

- Todd Curtis

Fatal and serious events by year
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
2001, 2002,2003, 2004, 2005
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

Related information
26 July 2014 - Todd Curtis discusses his findings on the Rudy Maxa Show (6:44)
Related article from Patrick Smith of
Losing three airliners in one week is not that rare Bonuses
All subscribers to the mailing list at will be able to download free copies of all of the recent books, including the latest, Family Air Travel Guide.

Also available is the Fear of Flying Resource Guide, with an overview of the symptoms of fear of flying, as well as recommended resources for managing or eliminating these fears.

20 July 2014

Jet airliner passengers killed by missiles and other aerial attacks

The 17 July 2014 crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine is not the first time a missile strike or other aerial attack has been suspected in the crash of a jetliner.

The following events involve confirmed or suspected passenger deaths on large jet airliners due to an attack by missiles, anti-aircraft gunfire, or other aerial attacks.

This list includes inflight events involving air-to-air missiles, ground to air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, or gunfire. The list excludes fatalities due to hijacking, sabotage, or bombings.

  1. 21 February 1973; Libyan Arab Airlines 727-200; Flight 114; Israeli occupied Sinai Desert: The aircraft was shot down by Israeli fighter jets after the 727 had strayed into the airspace of the occupied territory. Eight of the nine crew members and 100 of the 104 passengers were killed.
    727 plane crashes
    Wikipedia page on this event
  2. 20 April 1978; Korean Air Lines 707-300; flight 902; near Kem, Soviet Union: The aircraft diverted from its planned course on a flight from Paris to Seoul and strayed over the Soviet Union. After being fired upon by an interceptor aircraft, the crew made a forced landing at night on the surface of a frozen lake. Two of the 97 passengers were killed by the hostile fire.
    Korean Air Lines plane crashes
    Wikipedia page on this event

  3. 1 September 1983; Korean Air Lines 747-200; flight 007; near Sakhalin Island, Soviet Union: The aircraft was shot down by at least one Soviet air to air missile after the 747 had strayed into Soviet airspace. All 240 passengers and 29 crew were killed.
    International Committee for the Rescue of KAL 007 Survivors
    747 plane crashes
    Korean Air Lines plane crashes
    Wikipedia page on this event

  4. 3 July 1988; Iranair A300; flight 665; Persian Gulf, near Straits of Hormuz: Aircraft was shot down by a surface to air missile from the American naval vessel U.S.S. Vincennes. All 16 crew and 274 passengers were killed.
    Iran Air plane crashes
    Airbus A300 plane crashes
    Wikipedia page on this event

  5. 4 October 2001; Sibir Airlines Tupolev Tu154M; flight 1812; Black Sea near Adler, Russia: The plane crashed about 184 kilometers (114 miles) from southern Russia in the Black Sea, shortly after the aircraft exploded in flight. The aircraft had departed from Tel Aviv, Israel on a charter flight to Novosibirsk, Russia and was at cruise altitude when the explosion occurred. The reason for the in-flight explosion, which was witnessed by another airliner flight crew, is not known. However, various pieces of evidence point to an inadvertent strike by a Ukrainian military missile. All 12 crew members and 64 passengers were killed.
    Wikipedia page on this event

  6. 24 June 2014; Pakistan International Airlines (PIA); A31-300; AP-BGN; flight PK756; Peshawar, Pakistan The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Peshawar, Pakistan, when it was struck by several bullets shortly before landing. Two cabin crew members and one passenger were hit, and the passenger died of her injuries. There were no other injuries among the 10 other crew members or 177 other passengers.
    Fatal PIA Events
    Airbus A310 plane crashes

  7. 17 July 2014; Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER; 9M-MRD; flight MH17; near Grabovo, Ukraine: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight between Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The aircraft in cruise at about 33,000 feet when it experienced a catastrophic in flight breakup. Substantial circumstantial evidence indicates that the jet was hit by a surface to air missile. All 283 passengers and 15 crew members were killed.
    Fatal Malaysia Airlines Events
    777 plane crashes
    Wikipedia page on this event

Related Pages
Recent plane crashes
Fatal plane crashes by model
Fatal plane crash rates by model

19 July 2014

Seven Todd Curtis interviews about the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17

In the immediate aftermath of the crash of a large airliner, there is typically an intense focus on the event by the world's media.

In the case of the crash in eastern Ukraine of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17; a Boeing 777 that was traveling between Amsterdam, Netherlands and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; there was ample circumstantial evidence that the jet was shot down by a surface to air missile, but this was not directly confirmed within the first two days after the crash.

The crash occurred in an area of active military activity in eastern Ukraine, and no official investigative bodies were able to examine the crash site or the aircraft wreckage. In spite of that situation, there was substantial video and photographic evidence that clearly indicated that the aircraft experienced a catastrophic inflight breakup prior to impact.

Todd Curtis of was interviewed over a dozen times in the first 48 hours after the crash. Seven of those interviews, which were conducted from 17-19 July 2014, were compiled into the latest podcast episode from

The media organizations in the podcast episode included the following:

  • 17 July 2014
    - BBC World (TV)
    - BBC Five Live (radio)
    - NTN 24 La Tarde (see video below)
    - BBC WM 95.6 (radio)
  • 18 July 2014
    - CKNW Vancouver, BC (radio)
    - CJAD Montreal (radio)
  • 18 July 2014
    - CTV News Channel Canada (TV)

Seven Todd Curtis interviews about flight MH17
Boeing 777 crashes MH370 page
Other podcasts
Flight MH17 Wikipedia page
Crash rates by airliner model podcast home page
Listen to the podcast on TunIn

NTN 24 La Tarde interview (Spanish)

08 July 2014

Passenger issues and marijuana in Washington State

8 July 2014 - Today, Washington becomes the second US state (after Colorado earlier this year) to allow any adult aged 21 or over to legally purchase marijuana (cannabis), without any prescription, license, or other special permission.

While the laws related to purchasing and consuming marijuana have changed in Washington and Colorado, there have been no changes in the rules and regulations related to airline travel and marijuana.

Key things passengers should know
There are a few key things that any airline passenger should understand about the current laws before traveling to Washington or Colorado:

  • Federal law has not changed: Marijuana continues to be illegal at the federal (national) level. The federal government allows medical or recreational use of marijuana within a state, but prohibits the transportation of marijuana across state lines.

  • Possession is limited at airports: The federal government has banned marijuana from any area under federal control, including the secure areas of the airport (the areas inside the TSA screening areas).

  • You can't fly with marijuana: The federal government bans marijuana, even medical marijuana, on commercial aircraft, whether in a carry-on item, in checked bags, or in any package being shipped by air.

  • Medical marijuana is treated the same: The federal government makes no distinction between medical marijuana and other kinds of marijuana.

The TSA and marijuana
The TSA is not a law enforcement agency, and the TSA has stated that its security officers do not specifically search for illegal drugs. However, if they discover marijuana or a marijuana-related item (even in Washington or Colorado), TSA's policy is to refer the matter to law enforcement.

Law enforcement at an airport typically handled by a local or state level law enforcement agency. How a passenger will be treated will depend on the location and the circumstances. At the very least, the passenger's marijuana will likely be confiscated.

Entering the US with marijuana
US customs officials will not allow marijuana, or any item intended to be used with marijuana, to enter the country. In addition, non-US citizens who attempt to enter the US with marijuana or marijuana-related items may be prevented from entering the US.

Also, if you are a non-US citizens who is attempting to enter the US for the purposes of consuming marijuana in Washington or Colorado, you could be prevented from entering the country.

Marijuana resources on
The following pages provide detailed information about issues surrounding air travel and marijuana:

Todd Curtis was interviewed by on 3 February 2014 about airline travel issues for passengers who plan to fly to Colorado or Washington state to legally purchase and consume recreational marijuana. Watch the video below, or listen to the MP3 of the same interview

Photo credit: DEA

04 July 2014

Three BBC interviews about DHS security enhancements for selected flights from Europe to the US

On July 2, 2014, the Department of Homeland security directed the TSA to implement enhanced security measures at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States. These changes were in response to intelligence information that suggested that one or more groups were attempting to detonate explosive devices on one or more aircraft traveling from the US from Europe. These measures were being implemented in the UK, and in other countries, though TSA and Homeland Security did not go into further details.

The Standard newspaper in the UK reported that the threat may be from “stealth” bombs that can't be detected using the screening technologies commonly used by airports. Other media outlets speculate that the devices may be built into specific mobile phone models, or that the people carrying these devices may be passport holders from the US and other western countries. However, this is speculation that has not been either confirmed or denied by official sources in the US and elsewhere.

On July 2nd and 3rd, Todd Curtis of was interviewed several times by the BBC about several issues that were raised by this latest security situation.

Interview on Rudy Maxa's World
Todd Curtis was also interviewed on this issue on July 5, 2014 on Rudy Maxa's World.

Interview on July 7, 2014 with the Wall Srteet Journal

You can also find additional airline security information at, or at the following links:

29 June 2014

Six month safety review for 2014

This review of plane crashes and other significant events from the first six months of 2014 discusses three airline events, two of which involved at least one confirmed passengers fatality, and the third, which involved suspected passenger fatalities on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Since began tracking such events in 1996, there have been three or fewer fatal events in the first six months of a calendar year on five other occasions. There were also three fatal events in the first six months of 2001, 2005, and 2010. There was a single fatal event in the first six months of 2006 and 2013.

This review includes all fatal events, specifically events involving passenger fatalities in aircraft which have the capacity to seat at least 10 passengers where those models are used in regular airline service in North America, western Europe, Australia, or Japan. Also included are plane crashes and other significant events that did not qualify as a fatal event, but that either had high media interest or that had noteworthy aviation safety or security implications.

All of the events in the first half of 2014 were fatal events, and there were no significant events. From 1996 to 2014, there have been a total of 81 fatal events and 35 significant events in the first half of the year, for an average of 4.26 fatal events and 1.94 significant events each year.

The definitions page has additional details on how an event is assigned to a category. The Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 event led to a change in the definitions, expanding the fatal event category to include situations where an airliner has been missing for at least 30 days, and where there is also substantial indirect evidence that one or more passengers were killed.

Events Killing Airline Passengers

  1. 16 February 2014; Nepal Airlines DHC-6 Twin Otter 300; 9N-ABB; flight 183; en route between Pokhara and Jumla, Nepal: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Pokhara to Jumla, Nepal. Radio contact was lost about 30 minutes after takeoff. The crashed aircraft was found the next day, and all three crew members and 15 passengers had been killed.

  2. 8 March 2014; Malaysia Airlines 777-200; 9M-MRO; flight MH370; unknown location: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Beijing, China and went missing while en route. The current location and status of the aircraft, along with that of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members who were on board, is unknown.

    This is a numbered event as defined by because there is substantial indirect evidence that one or more passengers were killed.

    Visit the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 page for additional information, including links to articles and interviews of Dr. Todd Curtis of

  3. 24 June 2014; Pakistan International Airlines (PIA); A310-300; AP-BGN; flight PK756; Peshawar, Pakistan The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Peshawar, Pakistan, when it was struck by several bullets shortly before landing. Two cabin crew members and one passenger were hit, and the passenger died of her injuries. There were no other injuries among the 10 other crew members or 177 other passengers.
    Fatal PIA Events

Other Significant Events


Other Years
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000,
2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
2011, 2012, 2013 Bonuses
All subscribers to the mailing list at will be able to download free copies of all of the recent books, including the Family Air Travel Guide.

Also available is the Fear of Flying Resource Guide, with an overview of the symptoms of fear of flying, as well as recommended resources for managing or eliminating these fears.

28 June 2014

Passenger killed by shots fired at airliner

24 June 2014; Pakistan International Airlines (PIA); A310-300; AP-BGN; flight PK756; Peshawar, Pakistan - The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Peshawar, Pakistan, when it was struck by several bullets shortly before landing. Two cabin crew members and one passenger were hit, and the passenger died of her injuries. There were no other injuries among the 10 other crew members or 177 other passengers.

According to one Pakistani newspaper, an airline official stated that the plane was 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles) away from the runway when it was hit by gunfire from the ground.

This was the eighth event involving a passenger fatality on an A310, and the first since a June 2009 crash that killed all but one person on board the aircraft.

This was the ninth event involving a passenger fatality on a PIA flight, and the first since a July 2007 crash that killed all 41 passengers and four crew members on board the aircraft.

Related information
Crashes and other fatal passenger events on the A310
Fatal passenger events involving PIA

26 June 2014

New search area for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

26 June 2014, Canberra, Australia - Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss announced a new search area for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Based on a revised analysis of information from the aircraft and from the Inmarsat satellite, this new search area is several hundred miles away from the areas that were extensively searched from late April to late May of this year.

The highlights of today's announcement included the following:

  • The new primary search area is about 60,000 square kilometers, which is about the size of the state of West Virginia, or the nation of Norway.

  • The area to be searched is previously uncharted, and a three-month charting effort involving two ships is currently underway.

  • The underwater search effort will commence in August, and is expected to last 12 months.

Primary search area in orange lies southwest of earlier search areas in red, yellow, and green

Updated analyses refocused search area
To date, no physical or photographic evidence from the aircraft has been recovered from the surface or the bottom of the ocean, and Australian officials, who are in charge of the search effort, have concluded that acoustic signals that were the focus of the earlier underwater search during April and May of this year are unlikely to have been associated with the missing aircraft.

A new and more extensive analysis of data from the Inmarsat satellite, and analysis of the performance of the aircraft, led to the identification of the new search area.

The analysis team, which included satellite and aircraft specialists from Boeing, the NTSB, Inmarsat, and several other organizations, uses the limited data that was transmitted between the aircraft and the ground, radar and other flight data from the early part of the flight, and combined that information with the known behavior of the aircraft's systems, to determine the new search areas. The search areas were identified using the aggregate result of five independent analyses.

Satellite communications with the aircraft
The recently released report stated that after normal communications between the aircraft and the ground ceased, and after the last recorded radar contact with the aircraft, that there were nine satellite communications attempts either to or from the aircraft. Two were unanswered ground to air telephone calls, and seven were 'handshake' signals between the aircraft and Inmarsat. These signals consistent of short messages with no significant data about the aircraft speed, position, or status.

An analysis of the seven handshake signals allowed the authorities to estimate the distance the aircraft traveled. The timing of last transmitted handshake signal was consistent with a shutdown of the engine electrical generators due engine flameouts due to fuel starvation.

Additional insights into the investigation
Earlier in the week, on June 23rd, Todd Curtis of was interviewed on CJOB radio in Winnipeg, Canada on the progress of the investigation. Part of the interview concerned recent statements by the Malaysian authorities that if the plane was lost by deliberate action, then the captain would be the main suspect.

26 June 2014 report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau
29 May 2014 update from the Australian JACC
ATSB determination of search area
Ocean mapping effort
Satellite communications logs
Additional information from the Ministry of Transport MH370 page

Graphics: Australian Transport Safety Bureau